Yesterday I got a call from a reporter from one of our state’s larger newspapers. The newspaper wanted a comment from someone in the community to add a local perspective to all the national stories about the Supreme Court’s hearings on marriage. Since I didn’t live in that community, I wondered why she called me. What she said shocked me, particularly in view of what Christians will celebrate on Sunday.
As I listened to her explanation, running through the back of my mind was how often God said to his people, “Don’t be afraid.”
When I hung up, I couldn’t help but think about the fact that it was at this very time of year that Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, said to his disciples, “Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me.”
Fear is natural to our present human condition. It comes to us easily. Courage is hard to come by. In fact, in 1978, Russian dissident and winner of a Nobel Prize in Literature, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, told the students at Harvard:
“A decline in courage may be the most striking feature which an outside observer notices in the West in our days. The Western world has lost its civil courage. . . . Of course there are many courageous individuals but they have no determining influence on public life.”
If that was his observation in 1978, how much more so could it be said today. And the newspaper reporter’s call confirmed it.
Here is very close paraphrase of what the reporter said:
“I can’t find anyone locally who wants to say anything in opposition to gay marriage. I’ve called 30 area ministers and no one has returned my calls.”
She also said they had a hard time the week before finding a minister from a theologically conservative church who would comment on a local gay blessing ceremony.
I was flabbergasted. And interestingly, she was, too. She did say that it was possible that nobody had had time to call her back, and the next day she told me someone had called her back that evening, after hours. But two weeks in a row of virtual silence and only one out of 30?
I couldn’t help but think about the significance at Easter of the number 30. It is the number of pieces of silver that Judas took in compensation for his betrayal of Jesus.
Please understand I am not saying all 30 of those ministers or the ones called the week before are “Judases.” Obviously, one of them called back and one did comment the previous week. And I know some ministers in that community who would have commented in a heartbeat had they been called or even had a moment to return the call. I know some of them are reading this. They know who they are, and I thank God for them.
But let’s be honest. If any of those who did not call back did not do so because they were afraid that something bad would come of their public statement in support of the very institution Scripture says reflects the relationship of Christ to His church, then that minister betrayed the Christ they say they serve. Is the Living God no longer able to support and sustain those who speak up for His institution?
When those who lead a particular church have no courage, then those in that church who follow them will have no courage, either. When a minister doesn’t have the courage to speak the truth to those who are ostensibly there to hear the truth or when they don’t know how to speak the truth graciously and redemptively enough to talk about critical issues, then maybe another calling is appropriate.
I know there will be those who would say that it is not the job of the church to talk about politics. Okay, but they ought to also oppose any teaching about Jesus’ trial before the Sanhedrin, the Jewish ruling body, or his trial before Pilate. After all, those were political/governmental processes.
In fact, I don’t see much difference contextually — one was a trial almost 2,000 years ago and it was a trial at issue this week. In the former the “groom” was on trial and in the latter it was His bride.
I also know there are those who will say that talking about politics could turn people off who will not be saved as a result. To them I would submit that God is able to save whom He chooses to save. If he’s not the one who saves, then we Christians need to stop wasting time praying for God to save a friend or loved one and just get on with the business of saving that person ourselves.
It is ironic that this apparent demonstration of fear over the last two weeks by at least some ministers took place heading into and on Easter week. By the resurrection, God demonstrated the power to conquer death and Hell. There is nothing more that one man can do to another than to take his life. For those who believe the Easter message, death is therefore no reason for silence. If death is no reason for silence, then can a lesser consequence justify it? Oh, Lord, help our unbelief.
He is alive. He has risen. Now it is time for the historic, orthodox Church to come alive and rise up, too.